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A Very Unique Safari

By June 27, 2017May 21st, 20186 Comments

Today I went on a safari to the Calauit preserve – essentially, once upon a time the Filipino President Marcos (likely best known to my American friends as the husband to Imelda) decided it would be a good idea to go to Kenya and bring back some animals for “conservation.” He thought the climate was similar and they would be happy here in the Philippines.

{{alternate history, you decide the facts: President Marcos’s son Bongbong wanted to have a convenient place to go hunting for big game. This one feels more probable to me?}}

So with that auspicious beginning, the animals were taken to Calauit Island – an entire (small) island dedicated to them, and tourists can now come and see the animals.

However, Calauit is very far north of the main town in Coron, so the tour picked us up at 4:30am and then we didn’t get back until almost 9:00pm. It was a VERY long day.

I have to be honest and say that I have very mixed feelings about Calauit – I’m not sure I’d do it again if I had a do-over, and I don’t recommend it to anyone considering it. It felt somewhat exploitive to the animals, and it didn’t feel like they were being well cared for overall.

One of the giraffes had a sore on his rear haunch, and it seemed to have something applied to it to make it better, but then they had the “small zoo” which was so sad. The giraffes and zebras seem like they likely have adequate room to roam.

In the small zoo, however, there were the saddest monkeys that I have ever seen. The cages were very small and clearly poorly kept – the monkeys really didn’t have room or things to play on. On one of the cages, the others in my group started feeding the monkey random food from their bag, which was reaching out of the cage to get the food. It did not feel quite right – especially because our tour guide was watching and laughing.

They let the tourists feed the giraffes, which was a cool experience. The giraffes are crazy strong when they pull the leaves off of the branches. I was so surprised by that and taken aback. While it was fun to feed the giraffes, there’s still something about it that doesn’t feel quite right. At least, compared to the monkeys, we only fed the giraffes the leaves that had been supplied for it.

So given that, I would not recommend going and supporting it – I honestly think the animals would likely be better off if they shut down the island.

It is, however, built for the Instagram generation – there aren’t many other places where you can get as close to the animals as Calauit lets you, and so there are fun pictures from it. And obviously, I can’t judge anyone doing it too harshly, because I clearly did it, and had fun while I was there! I just wish I’d known more about the animal conditions before and would likely have made a different choice.

To get to the animals, they have one jeepney that looks so old it feels like it’s out of a movie. They are also just as good with that as the animals – there were tourists who climbed up and rode on top so they packed twelve people in per jeepney! I can’t even believe it worked with that much load.

After the tour, we went back to the main island, had lunch, and then went on to island-hop for the afternoon. I have to admit that Filipino main dishes are not my favorite foods! They have rice with every meal (which is good because at the very least I’ll always have that to eat), and they love barbecue. Like a lot. They have a ton of different meats that they put on a skewer and cook, then douse in sauce. I find all of the meats here to be quite tough and overcooked, but on the plus side, I’m pretty sure they annihilated any bacteria through the cooking!

But I’ve fallen in love with their snacks and street food! I had a Ube (oo-bay) smoothie that was amazing! I decided to try it because at one of the stalls on the town square, they had a place with lots of blenders out and one blender was filled with a bright purple drink. Given my love for the color purple, I felt like I needed to try it. It was sweet and interesting-tasting, and I really enjoyed it. Later I learned that what they call Ube we call taro root. So I have to say that I like shakes made from taro root, condensed milk, ice, and I’m not quite sure what else!

The also have banana-cue and comaté-cue (no clue how to spell that one) that is amazing! I will be trying to recreate it when I get home (though I’m sure with limited success!). They take a skewer of either banana or sweet white yams and then cook it slightly (mainly the yams, bananas not so much), and then they caramelize brown sugar. Somehow, someway, they manage to douse the skewer in the brown sugar so that the banana or yam has a sweet, slightly crunchy outside. It’s a simple snack but it’s so tasty after being in the hot sun all day!

They also have some different types of bananas rolled in spring roll paper or battered and then fried. So good.

Back to the tour – we spent the afternoon on two different islands, and like everything here, they were just breathtaking. I’m definitely getting spoiled on gorgeous, uncrowded beaches with crystal clear water.

By the time we left, I was really ready to head out. It’s a long day of being in the sun and generally being outside – it was hot and even though I’d tried my best to keep up with water, I still felt a bit dehydrated. So we took the boat back from island-hopping, about 40 minutes, and then got back into the bus to come back to town. The bus ride is about two hours back to town, so that was pretty long too!

I went on the tour with a girl named Joyce that I met at the hostel I’m staying at. On Tuesday morning, she and I were both waiting to be picked up by other tours and we hit it off immediately. She was doing the Calauit safari today and I mentioned that I had been thinking I wanted to do that tour. So she ended up getting me added to the group, and we had a great time going today! Even when traveling alone, I’m rarely alone.

Getting to hang out with Joyce was definitely the highlight of the Safari day (well that and the beaches!). It’s so fun to get to meet new people and learn about their lives.

In fact, I was reflecting today that after almost two weeks of traveling alone, I feel like I’ve been around people too much! It made me laugh when I identified that feeling because there’s been a LOT of alone time. But because I’ve been staying in hostels, it’s a very social environment. I’ve met some really cool people and enjoyed hanging out with them. It is interesting how few people from the States I meet in hostels – it’s a very European, Filipino (at least here), Australian kind of crowd. People tend to be surprised when I say I’m from the US.


  • Terry Krueger says:

    Have you encountered lumpia (sp?) Philipino egg rolls? Seemingly every Phil ex-pat lady I’ve known makes them. Stuffing varies from pork to shrimp but they are always the bomb. Keep having fun!

  • Donna Plewes says:

    Aww, The zoo sounds sad. Heartbreaking really. Some great pics though! Keep up with your water for sure, probably the most important thing you can do. Intersting take on the food- surprising. I am impressed you are trying the street food! Love you. Mom

  • Donna Plewes says:

    Proud of you beyond proud. Terrified too..but God is in control. I am looking forward to meeting you in Italy no matter when that is. I cannot imagine a better adventure. You rock it out of the park, and I think your critiques are awesome. You make my day when you call..or text at the spots you can. Thank you! Much love, support, admiration and prayers coming your way.

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